11 Feb 2020
Our Age-friendly Communities Manager, Ange Jones, writes about how the UK Network of Age-friendly Communities mobilised to commit their local leaders to taking action on ageism and talking more positively about later life.
The 1st October each year marks the United Nations International Day of Older Persons, a vital opportunity for communities to come together and celebrate the contributions made by those in later life. This contribution is understood well by members of the UK Network of Age-friendly Communities, a group of places committed to being great places to grow old in, where the voices of older people are championed in local decision-making.
This year, the network marked the day with a collective action to tackle ageism – a harmful form of discrimination that is still all too common in our communities. On the 1st October, local leaders of Age-friendly Communities across the UK signed up to an open letter committing them to challenging ageism wherever they see it and talking in a more realistic and constructive way about later life.
The letter was signed by 30 local leaders and was used in a variety of ways by different places. In the Isle of Wight, CEO John Metcalfe signed the letter at an Age-friendly Island celebration along with business leaders from the community. Older people in Melksham gathered at a special meeting to discuss the issues affecting them, after their mayor Councillor Jon Hubbard signed up to the letter. And in Barnsley, where mayor Councillor Pauline Markham signed the letter, a Love Later Life event was attended by over 200 older people.
This is the first time the network has come together to raise its voice on an issue that matters to older people and to all of us as we age.
And the letter spread far beyond its intended signatories of local mayors and council leaders. We found that councillors, practitioners, professionals and people in the community wanted to sign up too. So we put a version of the letter online for people to put their names to – and so far, nearly 100 have done so.
Age-friendly Communities were also keen to make noise about their local leaders signing up, and we provided support for them to alert their local press about the action. This was really successful, with the letter covered on BBC Radio Merseyside, This is Wiltshire and the Island Echo among others, along with national specialist media like Local Government News and Government Business. It was also featured in a piece on the growing anti-ageism movement in the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Sheffield Star.
This is the first time the Network has come together to raise its voice on an issue that matters to older people and to all of us as we age. We learnt a lot and the action doesn’t end here. Age-friendly Communities around the UK will continue important work on age-friendly issues in their area, and a broader #AgeProud movement is gathering steam, both online and offline.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Network to push for greater action to tackle ageism and to build communities where everyone can enjoy a good later life.
Image: Councillor Doctor Geoffrey Walker with members of Age UK Sunderland's Older People's Council